Gra­ham finds him­self on the mar­gins of shut­down talks

Belleville News-Democrat (Sunday) - - Insight - BY EMMA DUMAIN edu­[email protected]­


Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham is con­vinced he holds the key to end­ing the par­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down, but at the mo­ment he’s largely shout­ing into a void.

The South Carolina Repub­li­can with a rep­u­ta­tion in Washington as a deal­maker is float­ing a com­pro­mise to an au­di­ence that has sig­naled no de­sire to co­op­er­ate.

For a law­maker ac­cus­tomed to be­ing at the cen­ter of the ac­tion on prac­ti­cally ev­ery ma­jor leg­isla­tive fight — he even helped bro­ker a deal to end the last gov­ern­ment shut­down nearly a year ago — Gra­ham is no­tice­ably ab­sent from the heart of this bat­tle.

His lack of suc­cess so far could be a symp­tom of the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal cli­mate that’s in- hos­pitable to a player such as Gra­ham. It could also be that he’s out of touch with his col­leagues in both par­ties as he tries to shop a com­pro­mise for which few have any ap­petite.

Gra­ham thinks Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, an ally, should pro­vide pro­tec­tions for cer­tain un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants at risk of im­me­di­ate de­por­ta­tion un­der the De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram, plus those in the United States un­der Tem­po­rary Pro­tected Sta­tus. In re­turn for some­thing Democrats want, Congress would give the pres­i­dent the $5 bil­lion he and fel­low Repub­li­cans want for a bor­der wall.

Gra­ham has been lob­by­ing the pres­i­dent di­rectly on this is­sue since early De­cem­ber, as Trump made it in­creas­ingly clear he was pre­pared to shut down the gov­ern­ment if Congress did not give him money to build a phys­i­cal bar­rier at the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der to curb il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion. That shut­down will en­ter its third week Satur­day.

On Dec. 30, Gra­ham joined Trump for a two-hour lunch at the White House. After­wards, the sen­a­tor told re­porters that Trump called a DACA-for-wall­money plan “in­ter­est­ing.”

In re­marks Fri­day, how­ever, fol­low­ing a meet­ing with con­gres­sional lead­ers, Trump said he wants to wait for the Supreme Court to rule on his bid to over­turn DACA be­fore re­sum­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions on broader im­mi­gra­tion leg­is­la­tion.

“We’ll dis­cuss it at an­other time,” Trump said re­gard­ing DACA.

Gra­ham has also been ap­peal-

ing to Rep. Mark Mead­ows, R-North Carolina, a leader of the con­ser­va­tive House Free­dom Cau­cus with his own per­sonal ties to Trump. Mead­ows is urg­ing the pres­i­dent to con­tinue the shut­down for as long as it takes to ex­tract a con­ces­sion from Democrats on bor­der wall money.

“I’ve talked to Sen. Gra­ham more in the past two weeks than I have in the last six years, so, yeah, we’ve been talk­ing on a daily ba­sis about op­tions,” Mead­ows told re­porters Thurs­day. “Sen. Gra­ham has talked about a num­ber of things that he’s asked if con­ser­va­tives can help with.”

Yet few law­mak­ers so far are se­ri­ously dis­cussing Gra­ham’s pro­posal as a pos­si­ble shut­down exit strat­egy, which the sen­a­tor said has left him “dumb­founded.”

One ex­pla­na­tion for the lack of in­ter­est in pur­su­ing a path re­lat­ing to DACA is that trust has eroded be­tween Democrats and Repub­li­cans — par­tic­u­larly be­tween Democrats and the Trump White House — on this is­sue.

“I know peo­ple in our cau­cus would con­sider” link­ing DACA to wall fund­ing, said Rep. Raul Gri­jalva, D-Ari­zona, whose district in­cludes a large swath of the U.S.Mex­ico bor­der. “But if that uni­verse was pos­si­ble, I think we would have ex­plored it al­ready.”

Trump’s hes­i­ta­tion to of­fer Gra­ham’s deal could be be­cause he feels burned, Gra­ham sug­gested in late De­cem­ber on the eve of the start of the shut­down.

“I think he’s open to some kind of DACA deal, I re­ally do,” Gra­ham told McClatchy. “I think he’s re­luc­tant to put it on the ta­ble be­cause he put it on once be­fore and they re­jected it.”

Gra­ham was re­fer­ring to a White House of­fer last Jan­uary that would have cod­i­fied DACA, plus im­ple­mented a va­ri­ety of other con­tro­ver­sial changes to im­mi­gra­tion law, in ex­change for bor­der wall fund­ing. Democrats, how­ever, con­tend it was Trump who ul­ti­mately walked away from an im­mi­gra­tion com­pro­mise.

But Gra­ham him­self might also be play­ing a role in poi­son­ing the po­lit­i­cal at­mos­phere, hurt­ing his abil­ity to bro­ker a deal.

While he speaks pas­sion­ately about the need for com­pro­mise and the im­por­tance of pro­tect­ing DACA re­cip­i­ents, he has also been ac­tively and en­thu­si­as­ti­cally sup­port­ing the shut­down in sharply par­ti­san terms.

He’s used Twit­ter and ca­ble news to let Trump know he should “dig in” on de­mand­ing the wall and that the pres­i­dent should “break” the new House Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity. Gra­ham told Fox

News on Wed­nes­day evening that if Trump caves it could be “the end of his pres­i­dency.”

This is the kind of talk many of Gra­ham’s con­stituents want to hear. Long ma­ligned by his crit­ics as “Lind­sey Gra­hamnesty” for his sup­port for com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion re­form, Gra­ham emerged from Brett Ka­vanaugh’s Supreme Court con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings a con­ser­va­tive hero, erad­i­cat­ing the threat of a se­ri­ous pri­mary chal­lenge when the sen­a­tor is up for re­elec­tion in 2020.

The rhetoric is alien­at­ing, how­ever, to Democrats who don’t see room for com­pro­mise on the wall.

“We’re not do­ing a wall. Does any­body have any doubt about that? We are not do­ing a wall,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Cal­i­for­nia, said Thurs­day.

Gra­ham isn’t giv­ing up. His spokesman, Kevin Bishop, said the sen­a­tor was con­tin­u­ing to “work the phones and speak with ev­ery­one” from his home this week­end in South Carolina.

“Hope­fully dis­cus­sions over the week­end lead to a break­through that ... Re­opens the gov­ern­ment ... Pro­vides fund­ing for bor­der se­cu­rity/wall ... (And p)ro­vides cer­tainty to hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple who will be los­ing their le­gal sta­tus and thrown into the shad­ows un­less we act,” Gra­ham tweeted Fri­day.

“One thing re­mains cer­tain,” he added. “No Money for the Wall, No Deal.”

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump walks to the Oval Of­fice with Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, R-S.C., on Nov. 8, 2018, in Washington. Gra­ham has been no­tice­ably ab­sent from the heart of shut­down dis­cus­sions.

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